Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has dreams. I live in the here and now. She dreams of snow, I just enjoy it when it happens. I had no idea that a dog could “yearn” but she does.

Don’t accuse me of projecting my feelings onto my dog. I don’t. I’ve watched her. She has a hole in the yard which is on the north side of the fence and in the shade of the lilac hedge. It’s the last place snow melts. She has dug it to be almost a foot deep. When it snows, she shovels snow into it. She lays in it, not realizing her body heat makes the snow melt.

The moment snow starts to fall, Bear knows it and wants OUT. She just stands in it until she’s sure it’s happening. Sometimes (depending on the time of day) we go for a walk in the falling snow. In Bear’s world, falling snow isn’t silent and it has a particularly sweet aroma.

In summer, that spot is her favorite spot in the yard. It’s where she dreams of snow.  

“A few more months, Bear.”
“I’ll wait here.”
“That won’t work, sweetheart. Come in and get a cookie.”

Squatter’s Rights in China

It was the normal way to sit in China without putting any body parts on the ground. Anyone in pants squatted beside the road, waiting for the bus. Women in skirts stood demurely. Kids squatted, playing marbles, in the shade of the trees. Men with cigarettes and pants rolled up squatted to play cards. People on their lunch break squatted along the sidewalk with chopsticks and a tin box that held what they’d brought from home or what was served at the canteen. 

It was a squatter’s world, and white people were shut out — too tall, too fat, too, well, white. Our two most effective diplomatic gestures in China of the early 80s were probably our abilities to pick up a single fried peanut with chopsticks and to squat in the shade of a tree enjoying a slice of watermelon. 

The featured photo is of a market in Guangzhou. The guy is washing and selling chicken feet from which he’d make the big Renminbi. Chicken feet are a Chinese delicacy. The rest of the leg? Most of the chicken I ate in China came whole (without feet).

Letting Go

This is kind of a PSA. Yesterday I dumped some of the WordPress Blogs I built over the last few years. I dumped “My Everest” and “Martha Goes Home.” WordPress personal blog is $48/year (includes a custom domain and no ads along with other features I don’t use like emails and chat support) made it absurd to pay for sites that are nothing more than scrapbooks for me to read. I didn’t find an option to “downgrade” to a free site so I dumped them.

I was happy when WordPress said, “Do you want to download your content?”

Yeah, I did, especially “Martha Goes Home.” Unfortunately, the “download” was an inscrutable text dump of XML files, and the image files were unreadable. I was disappointed but it’s not the end of the world. I haven’t looked at either blog in I don’t know how long and THAT is the test for me for throwing out anything. 

I’m going to dump some other blogs, too, and end up with only two — this one and the one for my books. That one is pretty inefficient, but I built it after I already had blogs for individual books — now, I think, I can streamline the whole mess. 

The moral of the story? Save your stuff your own way. Don’t rely on WordPress to “download” your blog.

My Book is Now Out in the World!

 Posted on December 7, 2018

The Price

Many Americans don’t know that they are descended from Swiss Immigrants. I didn’t. Even those of us who do genealogical research might get the information that our ancestors came from a place called the “Palatinate,”  the Alsace, some town in Southern Germany or the Black Forest. We don’t know or think about how those people might have migrated themselves from towns in Switzerland during the hundred or so between the Reformation and the moment that families began leaving Europe to settle in the “New World.”

The Price tells the story of these immigrants though it happens to be (very loosely) based on the story of my own family. Their story could be anyone’s story, really. These people were Mennonites, originally from the areas around Bern and Zürich. Some had fled persecution during the 16th century and gone to more Mennonite-friendly towns in the Alsace. Some fled and returned. Some stuck it out even when it meant imprisonment, confiscation of their property, the kidnapping of their children and death. 

The Price is now available at Amazon for Kindle and as a paperback from LULU (a print-on-demand publisher), here:

It will soon be available in paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers. 

Love Songs, Part II

Research is good. We usually look at the past through our own eyes and experience, and every once in a while a historian (we’ll call him “History Man”) will say, “Those people aren’t you, Sweet-cheeks. Those Medieval love songs that you are having such a hard time with AREN’T like love songs of today.”


“No. Those guys had arranged marriages. They were stuck with whatever their parents had set up for them. These lyric poems are more along YOUR style of love.”

“You mean hopeless, unrequited, at an absurd distance, across insane age differences?”

“Yes, exactly. Is this or is this not you, ‘…poets of the Middle Ages would likely find our contemporary love rituals completely alien. Medieval desire…was expressed as an ideal to be constantly sought, but rarely attained.”

“Whoa. So you’re saying that not only is my sense of humor medieval but my view of love?”

“Yep. Feel better now? Ready to return to hopeless yearning and all that makes you so happily miserable?”

“Thank you History Man.”

You can read the rest of History Man’s thoughts here:


Friends are the family you choose, or you happen upon, going part of the way with you or years with you, precious as diamonds, rare as rainbows, more fun than a carnival. Sometimes they’re dogs. My friends are all very different from me except for ineffable qualities of heart, respect, affection and sympathy. In our cyber world, friends can live thousands of miles away. Wherever they are, life is much better with them than without them.

The Price

Amazon changed its self-publishing platform for paperbacks from Createspace to Kindle Direct Publishing in the last few months. It’s really no big deal, but for me two things were troubling, most of all, the quality of book they put out wasn’t as nice, the binding was not as lasting, and the paper seemed rough and cheap. 

I used Kindle Direct Publishing to publish the eBook of The Price, but I published the paperback version of The Price on a different platform, LULU.

The paperback will show up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers sometime in the next two months. It is already for sale directly from LULU at the same price it will cost everywhere else. You can find it here:


I have a condition — a pseudo-allergy — called various things most often Samter’s Triad or AERD (Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease). It was identified in 2013 after I suffered worsening symptoms for 2 years. 

When it flares up, it can be as a sinus infection or asthma depending mostly on the season. Cold weather triggers asthma in a lot of people anyway, and, in my case, definitely. This year has been worse than past years I think because in surgery in May I inhaled a LOT of strange stuff. My lungs are slow to recover because they just don’t always work that well. 

AERD is a condition in which people are hyper-sensitive to aspirin and other NSAIDs. I cannot take them. This also means a hyper-sensitivity to that which makes aspirin aspirin, but exists in most plants to some degree, that is salicylic acid. Combine spinach and cold air, and I have asthma. It’s worse at night. 

The cause is unknown, but Samter’s Triad is believed to be more common among people who smoke (I don’t and never have) and those who have spent a lot of their life — particularly their childhood — around second hand smoke (thanks, Mom). 

In the general population it is quite rare, but among asthmatics, it’s thought to be about 9%. 

I’m on meds and have my handy emergency inhaler so if I just keep the air going into my lungs warm enough, I’ll be OK. 

Love Songs

This is the first time in decades I don’t have a story to work on. What I thought might be a good idea is looking more and more doubtful. I’ve been reading about and in the work of the Goliards and it’s — they — are notable for being priests who wrote love songs. 

Whoop-dee-do. And songs about drinking, the corruption of the church, the absurdity of doctrine, and poverty. But mostly love songs. Sometimes naughty love, but love. And if you’re a priest, is there any other kind of love? Maybe these are not my people. 

Sixty-two years ago when some crooner was crooning on the radio in the family kitchen, I asked my dad, “Why do they sing about love all the time?”

My dad gave me a startled look, like, “She’s only four, WTF?” then said, “Because love is the greatest thing in the world.”


“Helen, can I have a little more coffee?” 

Way to change the subject, Dad.

I’m not convinced that romantic love is the greatest thing in the world. There are lots of other really great things like the range, horses named Old Paint, exploration, adventure, art, and nature. It’s true there are a few anti-love songs, but love is still the main subject.  

One of the things I’ve always liked about Punk Rock is that while there are love songs, there are songs about other things. The more hard-core the Punk, the less likely there is to be a love song. It’s awesome. Often, when a Punk band sings about love, it’s not sappy love but something else. The Dead Kennedys’ best love song is “Too Drunk to Fuck.” Sorry, but there it is. Realistic, funny and ironic. 

I’ve been listening to The Pretenders a lot lately, and Chrissie Hynde has a few sappy love songs, but her love songs are mostly not. 

“I wanna do it, do it on the pavement.” That is not sappy.

Anyhoo…. Since I find all this love song stuff de-inspiring, I don’t know what’s up next. I’m not anti-love or bitter on the subject. I congratulate — and have deep respect for —  all of you who found your great love and are busy living happily ever after. That just isn’t my story. 

But why?

The model in front of me growing up wasn’t particularly happy, that’s one thing, probably, then I never wanted kids. I wanted adventure. For a while I thought a boyfriend or husband would also want adventure, and we’d go off into the world adventuring, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Even the most adventurous men I knew longed for wife and family, the ties that guys like in the movie K2 struggle against. Except one. He wanted adventure more than wife and family, and I think his romantic life has gone pretty much like mine. There is a kind of love between us, maybe a shared love of mountains, adventure and words, mutual esteem. Anyway, I treasure it, maybe partly because it’s love that doesn’t show up in love songs. 

In any case, I wonder what the protagonist will do so that I can write his story? I see him influenced by Goliard love songs, in a moment of heated passion impregnating a girl, then facing the betrayal of romance, thrown out of his monastery, sent wandering over the Alps to teach Martin to paint and then in his own Paul on the Road to Damascus moment realizing there is no better lover than art and returning to the monastery, seeing it as his best bet for a life as an artist. Maybe he’ll go that way. 

Ars longa, labilis est dilectio